In a time where we have “Quiet Quitting,” “Quiet Firing,” “The Great Breakup,” and so many disruptive dynamics, questions continue to surface about how employers might best engage their workforce in this tumultuous season. There is no simple solution to this quandary, and many organizations have felt the impact of employee disengagement on the company’s financial performance. The volatility of the market, rising variable costs, supply chain challenges, and unprecedented lingering inflation have created uncertainty across the globe. We have all witnessed massive layoffs in recent months and have either been impacted directly, or because of voices amplified via social media platforms. The disappointment of unfulfilled workplace experiences presents a unique challenge for enterprise executives and leaders of people. For so long we have been focused on how we might “retain” talent. Retention is not a high enough aim anymore. We now must consider how we might unlock talent and connect to the intrinsic levers that truly drive a fulfilling career experience.

What does it take to create a high-performance culture? Listed below are 5 specific keys that can unlock a collective contribution that will propel the quality of your organizational output and amaze your customer base. These keys enable the highest level of performance by transparently framing success, co-designing goal setting strategy, and creating an innovation friendly environment. See the keys below for additional details:

1. Action Oriented Empathy – Model and Authentically Live out Empathy as a Value

2. Alignment of Talent to Opportunity – Assess Strengths and Align the Best Talent to the “Right” Assignments

3. Defined Expectations – Link Desired Outcomes to Individual, Team, and Departmental Goals

4. Agility-Based Coaching – Continuously Assess the Landscape, and Adjust as Needed

5. Accountability Framework – Provide System for Accountability and Clarify Consequences (Good and Bad)

Action Oriented Empathy:

Action oriented empathy is rooted in a deep understanding of others that leads to measurable business impacts. When leaders model active empathy, a unique opportunity is presented to engage in vulnerable discussions where fears can be addressed. This key is foundational to gathering insights that start shaping the inclusive culture we desire. When we authentically lead with empathy, we make room for psychological safety to develop in our relationships. Dr. Timothy Clark, CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of LeaderFactor defines psychological safety as a culture of rewarded vulnerability. When vulnerability is rewarded, we create the freedom to innovate. This is a key that must be maintained parallel to the remaining keys. Action oriented empathy provides the most stable environment to cultivate a desirable employee experience.

Alignment of Talent to Opportunity:

Aligning talent with the right opportunity may prove to be one of the most difficult keys to implement. Leaders sometimes inherit teams that are already set and may consider changes. Another scenario is building a team from the ground up with a mixture of internal and external talent. While both scenarios present challenges, there is an assessment strategy that can mitigate the risk of misalignment. The most effective strategy is to engage deeply in discussions around aspirations and assess strengths through observable experience, insights, and skill sets. Another assessment area is the motivational connectivity to the opportunity and subsequent career pathways. There is a voluminous amount of research that speaks to why people leave roles. A recent Gartner survey lists compensation, development opportunities, and a more clearly defined career trajectory as the top three reasons employees decided to leave their job. With this understanding outlined, it is clear how powerful defining expectations can be.

Defined Expectations:

Defining expectations seems like it should be easy to do, but do not make the mistake of undervaluing the complexity of this key. This key requires a leader to demonstrate an elevated level of business acumen with a connected vision of success for the role in question. This is where “Quiet Quitting” appears most frequently as employees feel exploited due to overly burdensome expectations that are not properly aligned to the reality of their environment. When defining expectations, it is critical to leverage a co-design strategy rooted in empathy. Expectations are to be set at the group and individual level while intertwining with organizational objectives. To properly set high performance expectations, there must be a clear link to how individual and group efforts are linked to the organization's overall success strategy.

Agility-Based Coaching:

Agility-based coaching is more important than ever due to changes in consumer demand that may lead to forecast disruptions. My definition of agility is to move quickly and with precision. When you see external threats coming your way, your ability to pivot in a new direction while maintaining momentum is key. This style of coaching allows you to continuously assess the performance strategy to align and/or adjust performance goals as needed. One of the key responsibilities we have in leadership is to eliminate barriers and provide requisite support that enables optimal employee success. When using this key one cannot allow the desire to move fast to override the clarity of expectations. The defined expectation key will accompany the coaching key, and interactions must be rooted in empathy.

Accountability Framework:

Without the accountability framework key, all the arduous work leading to this point may be in vain. An accountability framework represents the system used to track and measure progress over the lifecycle of the strategic goals set. There are different platforms that can be used to effectively sustain momentum on high performance targets, but the major driving force is an understanding of consequential outcomes. Creating visibility of the positive outcomes derived from the tactical execution of goals is equally important to outlining the negative outcomes when avoidable failures occur. This visibility creates transparency of shared success and articulates the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM). Building an accountability framework is the key that gives an individual ownership and guided autonomy in a safe environment. This final key will unlock the highest form of human capability and team success leading to the high-performance culture that you desire.